Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Language Barrier

The elder child goes to an international school. Which means this is a school where every child, on average speaks about 3 languages fluently. Feeling woefully inadequate since both kids now speak just one language passably and although they understand the second perfectly, refuse to communicate in it, my inner dragon mum arose with a roar and I decided that I would speak in only the mother tongue with the kids, until I could show my face in the international community again as a mother of multi-lingual children.
So, the next morning, as the kids come down, sleep-addled, I ask them in Tamil to hurry up and drink their milk. Five minutes later, I seem to have the need to repeat the same instructions in a louder tone (still in Tamil) to kids.  A further two minutes later, I’m loud enough to rattle window panes and I have to ask the kids if, overnight, they seem to have contracted a sudden case of deafness. To which the elder one nonchalantly replies, ‘Oh, sorry, Ma, since you were talking in Tamil, I assumed you were talking to Appa.’ Grr. Of all the times to ignore adult conversations, they choose the one time I’m not having one.
Undaunted, I continue with my endeavours with the Tamil conversation throughout the morning. The kids, also undaunted continue to listen to all I have to say and just answer me in English. This is so not going according to plan! I am resisting the urge to bang my head against the wall. Right, I retreat into the kitchen and over the course of preparing lunch formulate a new plan. At lunch, as we are sitting down, the younger one asks ‘what’s fo’ lunch, Amma?’  I ignore her. ‘Ma?’ asks the younger one not one to be deterred easily. This ignoring thing is such fun, I think to myself. And I’m barely able to complete the thought before my head is suddenly whipped around, and I’m staring at a pair of round eyes millimetres from my face. And the question is repeated at ear-splitting decibels. ‘WHAT’S FO’ LUNCH, AMMA?’ After the ringing in the ear subsides, I calmly inform the crew gathered around the table that I shall only understand conversations in Tamil during the course of lunch. The husband looks at me like I’ve announced that I want to run away and join the circus (actually, given our daily antics, that wouldn't be too far -fetched), snorts and asks me to pass the dal. The kids initially try to get me to answer them despite their use of English and as I continue to ignore them pointedly, settle into sullen silence. It’s actually quite nice for a while, to have lunch in relative peace and quiet, without constantly having to play judge and jury.  And then slowly I see an evil gleam creep into Child No.1’s eyes.  Looking to Child No.2, he says, ‘you know, now that Amma says she can’t understand English, you can talk about that secret thing you did, and she won’t know at all.’ Child No.2 gets an equally evil gleam in her eyes now and she responds. ‘Oh. That thing. But Amma will never find out about it. Unless it starts to smell. Will it smell?’ And both of them erupt into a fit of giggles.
Unbelievable! Kids, who mere seconds ago were at each other’s throats have now developed camaraderie to the point of ESP! And what was the thing they’d done? And where?  I feel a trickle of sweat running down my back as I picture my lovely silk sarees smelling of God-knows-What.  Or finding something squelchy in my best, going-out-to-an-event-that-requires-heels shoes. No. I wasn’t going to admit defeat to a couple of things barely knee-high. And through gritted teeth I tell them the consequences of finding something unsavoury where unsavoury things ought not to be. In Tamil. The husband at that point politely points out that that is the sort of language that he was hoping the kids wouldn’t learn. And at that moment the kids decided to miraculously pick up the language and started gleefully yelling out those lovely Tamil words at each other.
I have now resorted to saner methods of introducing Tamil to the kids – tamil soaps, hoping that they will pick up the language if they hear enough of it. Sadly, the only thing they seem to have picked up from the soaps is the drama. Like we didn’t have enough of that in the house.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Coast of Normandy

The last weekend of May was a long weekend for the whole of Romania, So, the husband (he of the restless feet) decided to surprise us by planning a trip (yes, no surprises there, all surprises will include travel of some sort) to Normandy. Well, it was supposed to be a surprise, that is until I started making weekend plans with the kids and the friends and he was kind of pushed into telling me about the trip. Also because I needed to pack. Much as he loves to plan trips, packing is just not his thing.
But, things with us are never straightforward are they? So it's not a simple matter of hopping on a flight and landing somewhere in the coast of Normandy. Oh no. That is for the normal people. And those that don't live in Bucharest- A city that doesn't have direct connections to most of the world. So, it was a flight to Brussels at unGodly hours and then about 5 hours by car to Caen.
As few minutes of resting and we headed off to Omaha beach. (Yes, we do tend to move quickly. The resting can continue in the car, is our line of thinking.)
But I'm so glad we made the effort...
Some of the rations the WWII soldiers at the Memorial

The French resistance, apparently they had their own insignia :)
The Memorial itself had a load of stuff that really brought home the conditions under which the d-day landing took place and the bravery of the individual soldiers. But it was the outside that robbed you of your speech. And really spoke about the price of the war. 

Rows upon rows of crosses- or the start of David, all lives lost, just over a span of a few days. 

They've let nature take its course beyond the few metres of beach now. Nature, the eternal healer. 

One of the WWII tanks on display. 

Omaha beach - the actual site of the D-Day  landings. 
We spend a good few hours here - almost until closing time before he head back to Caen for the night. I'm not sure if it was coincidence or planning on the part of the husband to have us visit the place so close to the D-day landing anniversary, but it made the visit a bit more poignant. A vast majority of those buried there didn't even get to live to be as old as me.
Loved the graffiti on this Caen wall.
The next day, we though of heading out to Le Mont Saint-Michel. The place is a Monastery on the coast of Normandy which becomes an island when the tide comes in. Parts of the structure are as old as the 8th Century and it is one of the most beautiful UNESCO heritage sites I've seen. As with all things beautiful and vaguely architectural, I went shutter crazy.
Le Mont Saint-Michele. You can see how it would become an island when the tide comes in

I loved the narrow cobbled streets.

Steps of the Abbey

View from up top

Inside the abbey. It had a lovely rose garden

Such lovely, tall windows.

The slender double colonnade makes for a lovely play of light and shadow (that's my quota of 'lovely's done for this post, then) 

Not much of the original tiling remains, but what remains of it is beautiful. (See? No more 'lovely')
I really loved the light inside the Abbey, from the stain glass to the skylights to the arched windows and oriels.

Taps with character

An old well wheel. Don't know what it is with people and wells, but we found plenty of coins here as well. 
The little town below the Abbey (permanent population 44) was so policturesque.
The once-drawbridge now serves as a scenic backdrop to a coffee house
The tourist shops

This was inside a small church in town. perhaps not as old (17-18th Century), but just as beautiful.

A perfectly moulded wooden stopper for a stone vat

The stain glass depicting Saint Pierre, Patron saint of the local Parish
Our next stop was Pont de Normandie. Actually, This wasn't something on the tourist map, but as we were driving to Caen, we just loved how the two bridges looked, and decided to take a closer look on our way back. The impending storm served as a perfect backdrop too!
This place houses the names of all the engineers associated with building this structural masterpiece

getting to the bridge

Spotted some wildlife on our way across

Do you not love the Purple Minon staring at you? 

This also served as a driving break on our way to √Čtretat. We'd heard lovely things about the place. Especially about the cliff side hike along the coast. But the weather was a tad inclement to put it mildly. Lets just say that its a good thing we had a tight grip on my little one, otherwise we were looking at the very real possibility of a human kite.
The view however, was still beautiful.
The cliffs of Etretat. 

And the town below

The town of Etretat itself was really pretty too. Unfortunately it was also French. Which meant everything was shut on a Sunday evening. But we did discover one wonderful chocolaterie which did the most yummy pastries, and that's what we ended up having for dinner. That and Pizza. We also fell in love with a local brand of crisps which did a delish mustard and pickle flavour. So yeah, totally healthy food options.

The local Hotel. They didn't do early dinners. 

Neither did this restaurant

Empty wine bottles. Carted like one would cart milk in India. 
I only wish we'd gotten to spend and extra day in Normandy - the countryside was beautiful and there was much to see. But I suppose that is for another day, another trip.